First-year Tulane head football coach Curtis Johnson addresses his team during Monday's practice at the Westfeldt Facility.
Aug. 27, 2012
NEW ORLEANS - The skies overhead while the Tulane University football team opened gameweek practice with a morning session at the Westfeldt Facility were clear and serene. As the final whistle blew, spirits were high as kickoff for the 2012 regular season is just six days away.
But while the team was focused on its season-opening showdown with Rutgers on Saturday evening in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the overall atmosphere was one of unease as the Green Wave joined the residence of the Gulf Coast Region in preparation for the eventual landfall of Tropical Storm Isaac.
"I think everybody wants to be safe and everybody wants to know what we're doing," first-year Tulane head coach Curtis Johnson said. "I think we've got a great plan. We're going to get on a bus at about 2:30 today and we're heading over to Alabama. We'll practice at Legion Field, where UAB plays, and we're going to practice our game."
With an eye on a return to The Crescent City as soon as possible, the Tulane squad will continue its preparation for the Scarlet Knights in the Heart of Dixie. Despite the change of scenery, however, Johnson expects his team to remain focused and to be ready when the whistle blows for the opening kickoff on Saturday.
"We have a no-excuse team," Johnson said. "There are no excuses. There's just stuff that you can't foresee. All we are doing is getting the best accommodations and the best plan. Everyone in the (Wilson Center) has been great. We'll just get ready to play and we won't have any excuses on Saturday night.
"I thought the team was excellent (today). We had a quick, early practice this morning. We got them in and got them out. We had a couple periods where we wanted to introduce them a little more of Rutgers and just get ready for this week."
While Saturday's game will be the first for the Green Wave in 2012, it will also mark Johnson's debut as a head coach after spending nearly his entire career coaching wide receivers - most recently a six-year stint with the New Orleans Saints where he helped the team win a pair of NFC South Division titles, advance to the playoffs on three occasions and win Super Bowl XLIV following the 2009 season.
Johnson's team features 54 returning lettermen - including 16 starters - and welcomes the talents of 27 newcomers on the strength of a solid recruiting class inked in February. Headlining the list of returners are 2011 All-Conference USA honorees Orleans Darkwa (junior running back) and Ryan Travis (senior cornerback) along with senior quarterback Ryan Griffin, who enters his fourth year starting under center.
Like the Green Wave, Rutgers will take the field this weekend with a new face at the helm as Kyle Flood assumed head coaching duties in New Brunswick, N.J., in January. The Scarlett Knights return 43 lettermen and 16 starters from a 2011 team that went 9-4 overall, finished tied for fourth in the Big East with a 4-3 league mark, and defeated Iowa State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
"Rutgers is a tough football team," Johnson said. "They're big and they're physical. They can run. They're athletic on offense and defense, and they may have the best special teams that we're going to play against this season. The thing we have to do is we have to prepare. We have to do our jobs. It's the six inches in front of you. Just play what you see and do what you do, and if we can do that, we'll be fine."
Season and individual-game ticket sales for the 2012 football season are currently for sale through the Tulane Athletics Ticket Office. The Ticket Office is located on the first floor of the James W. Wilson, Jr., Center on Ben Weiner Drive, and tickets can be purchased in person, over the phone at 504-861-WAVE (9283) or via the Internet at www.TulaneGreenWave.com.